Florence school district receives grant money for safety improvements

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An initiative effort to enhance the protection and security of all 21 public high schools in Burlington County will help strengthen Florence schools’ defenses.

Freeholder Director Kate Gibbs recently announced that she and her fellow freeholders unanimously approved $5.4 million in grants that will fund this effort.

This county program, which was Launched four months ago, has provided grant funding to six school districts. In June, Gibbs introduced the county’s $20 million grant program during a press conference in Mount Holly.

The voluntary program requires each participating school district to make grant applications to the county and agree to a security evaluation by an architectural firm.

By the end of August, the freeholder board said all 21 public high schools agreed to participate in the program and had their evaluations completed for possible safety and security upgrades.

The county says it has committed to funding improvements identified in the evaluations, which can include things like new entrance atriums, emergency notice systems, classroom door locks, portable screening devices, panic alarms, entry buzzers, security cameras and more.

“I am pleased that nearly one-third of our public high schools in Burlington County have now been approved for grant funding to enhance the safety and security of their buildings,”  Gibbs said. “With each vote and grant that’s awarded, we are continuing to deliver on the commitment I made earlier this year when the program was announced.”

Although the county program dedicates funding toward safety equipment and systems, the county says the program does not mandate safety procedures, staff guidelines or other considerations left up to the individual school districts.

According to the freeholder board, the architectural firm’s written reports and county grant application paperwork were received by every school at the same time in September. Schools may apply for some or all of the security recommendations.

“Once again, I encourage every other school district to submit their applications expeditiously so we can provide security measures to better protect all of our students, teachers, and staff members, and help deliver local property tax relief for our residents,” Gibbs said.